Dennis, I don’t know what kind of hole you have for holding a
tang, but you might try a homemade mandrel holder from a 2" x 4"
piece of wood. Take a length about 1-1/2 ft. long, and cut a
blunt-ended “V” shape on one half. This is the part which will be
inserted into the hollow part of the mandrel. For an oval
mandrel, you want the smaller part of the curved metal faces on
the top side. This is the part which would form the curve on the
sides of the wrist, rather than one of the flatter faces.
Put the 2" x 4" in a vise, with the mandrel at the top end.
Place a block of wood on the end of the mandrel, and strike dead
on with a good-sized sledge to seat the mandrel to your wooden
tang. After the tang is seated, the other end of the tang is
usually screwed onto a bench to hold it firmly while you’re
working. The mandrel holder is usually screwed to the top of the
workbench at about a 45 degree angle.
Anneal your metal first. To form a bracelet using an oval
mandrel, start with the small end of the mandrel. Place the metal
blank on the curve which would form the outside wrist part. Using
your rawhide mallet, smack just the end to begin curving one end.
Then reverse the metal strip, and do the same to the other end.
You’re not trying to form it into a bracelet yet. You should
have a tall “C” shape of metal now.
Now that you have the “C” shape, you can begin forming the rest
of the bracelet. Start on the smaller end of the mandrel, smaller
than what the final shape will be. Use your mallet to form the
blank on the flatter part of the mandrel. You’ll have to be
careful that you don’t spread the side curves. Take off the blank
occasionally and reverse it by 180 degrees, by turning the blank
upside down. You should have two very curved sides and one gently
What remains is to get the bracelet the final size and put some
spring in it. Do this by gently tapping with your mallet while
sliding it down the mandrel. Remember to reverse the blank
occasionally. Once you figure out what you’re doing, it should
take you all of 10 minutes to form a bracelet 1" wide.
Several things of note here. If you’re forming a very wide cuff
into a forearm guard, you don’t reverse the blank. You need that
taper of the mandrel to follow the taper of a forearm. Of course,
your metal blank also needs to have a little more width at one
end than the other. The other thing, if you take out too much of
the side curve while sliding down your cuff, just go back to the
smallest end of the mandrel, and form the ends again into a tall
You’ll find other uses for that oval mandrel as you go along. I
often use it to form a gentle curve on a neckpiece so it lays
flatter against the collar bone. However instead of using it like
you would to form a bracelet, I put the metal along the length of
the flatter face.
Hope this helps,
K.P. in WY